Wednesday, June 23, 2010

1459 - The White Swans

And so, the second part of the military campaigning begins with a genuine head-to-head between the Yorkists and Lancastrians. From north to south the setup reads like a layer-cake, with alternating York/Lancaster forces assembling. I'll spare you a detailed account of the helpless swirl that resulted, but give a rough overview so you have the flavour of it!

York starts in the Welsh marches in a fortified camp at Ludlow. Warwick starts out overseas in Calais, but Salisbury is in the Yorkshire Ridings to the north. There are also many inactive nobles in the SE of England who can probably be counted on to rally to the Yorkist faction.

Meanwhile the Lancastrians' main army (with the Queen and King) gathers in the Midlands. In the south an army under Henry Beaufort (heir to the Dukedom of Somerset) is recruited in Devon & Cornwall, while up in the very far north the Percies gather forces along the Scottish Border - including York's Arch-Enemy Edmund Beaufort, the Duke of Somerset returned from his exile in Scotland!

At first, everybody sits tight and recruits across the counties by issuing Commissions of Array and pulling in every favour-owed family of supporters to provide them with troops. Warwick rather unfortunately fails to make it over the channel at first, being delayed by weather. Lots of the potential Yorkist nobles in SE England take their cue from this and fail to recruit to the Yorkist side, deciding sitting it out is much more sensible.

Once everybody has at least a decent army, it's a question of who can combine forces the quickest. Salisbury begins to take a circuitous route southwards, aiming to join York in the Welsh Marches. With their forces combined, plus Warwick's hoped-for arrival in the enemy rear, they should be able to drive the Lancastrians out of their central position in the country.

It's not to be, however! The Lancastrian main army heads north at full-speed and catches Salisbury at Lathom. Outnumbered 2:1, Salisbury is beaten in a half-fight, half-retreat in which his forces are scattered [the unequal fight was played out with the campaign resolution-rules rather than a tabletop battle, and Salisbury managed to cling on long enough to retreat.] The Earl manages to personally flee southwards after the rout and reaches York in person (plus a belatedly reformed personal retinue) but his army has been routed and destroyed (no doubt with the Queen watching in satisfaction from a nearby church steeple.)

The wheel of fortune has now taken a decidedly nasty spin for the Yorkists - now there are only Lancastrian armies in England, north and south - plus any union between them will see him crushed. Even worse, fragile Yorkist morale has taken a big blow through news of Salisbury's rout at Lathom, and everybody seems to be looking over their shoulder, coming up with excuses, etc. York runs east to Northampton in the hope of meeting up with Warwick, when the combined Yorkist force could then throw itself at one of the isolated Lancastrian armies and restore the situation. Warwick, thankfully, manages to arrive back in England and his arrival in London manages to rouse the Yorkist capital and boosts the faction's morale back to decent levels. Then the Lancastrians make a blunder...

The main Lancastrian army moves back into Coventry, aiming to take a central position from which all the outlying armies can reach him and combine, but in so doing he puts himself within striking reach of York. If York quits Northampton instead of waiting for Warwick to arrive and join him, he can catch the king's army with near equal numbers. Waiting for Warwick would almost certainly allow similar or larger numbers of reinforcements to reach the Queen. York decides that he can't take the chance of that happening, leaves only an apologetic note for Warwick in Northampton, then rushes off himself to seek the decisive battle!

I checked out Google Earth for a place near Coventry and in the direction of Northampton, and came up with 'Lawford Heath.' This took my fancy because the historical battle around this campaign was Blore Heath, so the 'Heath-yness' of the name made it for me! Below is a list of the two armies for the battle, plus the inset names are a couple of the 'minor nobles' I have drafted in to command companies for the major magnates. In fact, I only have two companies led by unnamed captains, the rest all being led in the correct style by those of noble blood. To arms!


Duke of York 1860 men
Baron Wenlock
[unnamed captain]
Earl of March 1800 men
Baron Clinton
[unnamed captain]
Baron Ferrers 660 men
Baron Grey of Powys 820 men
Earl of Salisbury 360 men
Total of 5,500 men


Duke of Buckingham 1540 men
Baron Dudley
Earl of Shrewsbury 1140 men
Lord Grey of Rougemont
Earl of Wiltshire 420 men
Viscount Beaumont 480 men
Lord Audley 1140 men
Duke of Exeter 180 men
Total of 4,900 men

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